South Africa staged an incredible comeback to win the HSBC LA Sevens with a thrilling 29-24 extra-time victory over Olympic champions Fiji.
In a repeat of the final from the previous round of the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series 2020 in Sydney, it was South Africa who this time triumphed thanks to an extra-time try from Sakoyisa Makata after the scores had finished level at full-time 24-24.
Fiji opened the final strongly with three unanswered tries in the first five minutes, but the Blitzboks clawed back the scoreline and equalised with a converted try by Branco du Preez in the final minute of normal time.
Earlier in the day South Africa won a hard-fought quarter-final against hosts USA with a last minute try from JC Pretorius edging them home 12-10 much to the disappointment of the exuberant Los Angeles crowd, which was being orchestrated by celebrity actor David Hasselhoff. In the semi-final the Blitzboks produced a dominant display to beat current Series leaders New Zealand 17-0.
Fiji’s route to the final saw them overpower England 26-5 in the quarter-final, before running riot against Australia with a seven try, 43-7 victory in the semi-final, much to the delight of the large contingent of Fijian fans at the Dignity Health Sports Park.
The bronze medal was claimed by New Zealand who achieved their fourth podium finish in five rounds, following gold in Cape Town and Hamilton and silver in Dubai. The All Blacks Sevens overcame their antipodean rivals Australia 21-19 in a tightly contested bronze medal match.
Hosts USA were unable to complete a hat-trick of titles on home soil, having been victorious in 2018 and 2019 in Las Vegas, but battled until the end to claim fifth position with victories over France (24-5) and Ireland (24-19) following their quarter-final defeat by South Africa.
The thrilling performances of the host nation will have won many new fans among the 30,000 in attendance and across the nation watching the live broadcast of the event on NBC. USA star Carlin Isles finished the tournament with five tries, passing the 200 Series tries milestone alongside team-mate Perry Baker during the tournament, and USA proved they will be serious medal contenders come the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.
The results in Los Angeles see New Zealand maintain their position at the top of the standings at the halfway mark of the series. The All Blacks Sevens are on 93 points but the margin of their lead has been cut to just four points with South Africa hot on their heels in second and Fiji a further 17 points behind in third.
The teams now move on to Vancouver for the sixth round of the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series on 7-8 March.
With less than five months to go to the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games the squads will be looking to increase their preparations towards competing in the biggest sporting event on the planet. The rugby sevens competition kicks off on 27 July and runs through to 1 August.
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